The Magic of Air Travel and How It Itself Can Be the ‘Destination’

There’s something that I’ve wanted to get off my chest for the past couple of months. I’ve seen multiple Twitter conversations lately between several different people that I follow debating the end goal of accumulating miles and points for travel. And I’m not talking about the addiction of earning status or milking the system for the cheapest possible accrual.

I’m referring to the simple act of flying for flying’s sake. I’ve seen exchanges between people who describe those of us who simply travel for the experience of travel – without seeing anything at the destination – as being incorrect, “doing it wrong” or missing rewarding experiences. And I’ve remained out of those conversations on purpose planning for a post such as this one. After all, 140 characters on Twitter can only explain so much.

First, let me emphatically respond by answering, “No, sorry, I’m not doing it wrong… for me.” From the sights, sounds and even smells of an airport to the inexplicable joy I receive by gazing out the window while airborne, you have no right to tell me that my desired “destination” isn’t the journey itself.

San Francisco from a United 744

San Francisco from a United 744

I will, however, admit that the most educational and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had were traveling to other countries and being exposed to their people, culture, food and more. Hands down, travel is the most spectacular gift one can ever receive.

But from very early on, my primary passion remained the act of traveling itself. Even before I ever stepped onboard an airplane, I found hotels exciting when my family took road trips to visit relatives. It was fun to check into a hotel, explore the room, check out the grounds and see other people doing the same. I used to love spotting hotel signs along the roadside while traveling through cities. Remember the iconic Holiday Inn signs (if you’re old enough)?

Source: Holiday Inn (IHG)

Source: Holiday Inn (IHG)

And when I began flying, it became such an instrumental requirement for fulfillment that I began “mileage running” before mileage running existed. In the 1980s while in high school, I flew repeated (and I mean repeated) day trips from O’Hare to the airports in Detroit, Kansas City and more just to satisfy my wanderlust and desire for the experience itself.

Back then, financial resources (and lying to my parents about where I was) certainly dictated just how much I could do. But I was happy, joyful and gained such an appreciation for simply flying that flying became the destination. It didn’t matter where I was going; the magic of flight consumed me.

And the destination of flying remains as such to this day. In some cases, I will still travel simply to experience a new airline, a new onboard product, or a new airliner just for the sake of it.

Many of you won’t understand this, but in 2010 I flew (LAX-) SEA-FRA-BKK-FRA-DEN (-LAX) on Lufthansa in first class, all without staying more than about eight hours each in Frankfurt and Bangkok, simply for the experience of it. And it was brilliant for me. [Side note: This was before my blogging career began, but I posted videos of my trip on YouTube here and here.]

So… I would recommend not judging anyone that you might find crazy for flying just for the sake of flying without doing more. They, and I, are absolutely fulfilled by the experience. Between individual preferences, financial resources and/or other constraints, flying might be the most fulfilling experience one can have, regardless of destinational rewards.

Telling someone that they are “wrong” because they don’t travel for the same reasons as you is… well… just wrong.

– Follow Darren Booth on Twitter, @FrequentlyFlyin, for more airline, hotel and travel industry news, reviews and opinions.

Related:

Confessions of an Elite Status Junkie: Part One

Curing a Case of Major Non-Travel Anxiety

Buh-Bye Upgrade Phobia: Rediscovering the Joy of Coach Travel

Comments

  1. Thank you for this post. I agree. To my my heart quickens as soon as I start to think about getting on a jet. Sure it is fun to go, but going, that is as much part if not more of the fun! 😉

  2. U R a sick puppy who is putting extra carbon in the atmosphere and exposing yourself to early cancer………..but you keep believing in your myth…………….

  3. Look…if you’d never been to Bangkok or Frankfurt, and you designed a trip that put you in each for less than 8 hours in exchange for more time aboard planes, than yes I’d say you’re doing it wrong.

    You know that St. Augustine quote about the world being a book, and people who don’t travel only reading a page? You deliberately skimmed the book. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it also means you don’t deserve much respect as a man of letters.

  4. @Delta Points: Thanks Rene… my heart quickens, too! There’s nothing like heading to an airport for a flight.
    @JustSaying: My “myth” is my joy, exposure to cancer or not. What’s your opinion about pilots and flight attendants?
    @Food, Wine & Miles: Thanks and bingo… that’s exactly the point… to each his own, but don’t judge.

  5. @James K: I can’t disagree… there are such rewarding experiences by reading the whole book, but for some people with specific timing or other considerations, if they can at least read a page, they’re “personally” fulfilled.

  6. Bravo! To each his own. Those who attempt to force their likes and dislikes upon others are the ones who garner no respect. So much for diversity and tolerance, eh? Your kink isn’t necessarily my kink, but if it trips your particular trigger…..then its ALL good…..and RIGHT.

  7. @Kari C: Very well said… that’s my point. I completely appreciate “full” travel enlightenment at a destination, but I also understand people like me, who simply savor the experience of “getting there,” where “there” is no where in particular. The home is where the heart is, and for me, the home is simply to travel and to fly.

  8. I am not sure what Just Saying is saying – those planes were going anyway, its not like you chartered your own Global Express…unless you did 😉 So, you might as well enjoy the journey. For many of us, the journey equals the destination, even the planning and anticipation – I agree with your post 100%, just not the part about sleeping in airport hotel lobbies waiting for airline lounges to open – that part isn’t doing it right.

  9. Great post. I agree. I have often taken the longest route just for the pleasure of flying. Now that I have been using miles to fly First Class I consider the aircraft type and airport lounges on route. Next March my wife and I are heading to Beijing. A nonstop was available from IAH but I booked the following. RSW-CLT-EWR-FRA-BKK-PEK. On the long hauls I am on United 772 and my first ride on Thai A380. I’m really looking forward to these flights, all in First Class. Also, please don’t ask me to lower my window shade, I’m watching the show outside.

    • @Rick: Wow you have a good memory… I completely forgot about the MCO Hyatt lobby before our trip 20 years ago.
      @Jeff: Yep, those were the days with ample LH F space.
      @Rick S: That’s a great itinerary. And I’m right there with you… If I want to look out the window, it’s my prerogative!

  10. Awesome post, and I couldn’t agree more. I have an upcoming MUC/BCN trip starting next week and one of the highlights for us will be flying home from BCN through FRA and IAD to LAX in C class on LH and UA. I finally get to experience C on an international carrier (albeit on a LH A321, but still). Plus the new(er) C seats on the UA 777 (forward facing seats thank you very much), and then BusinessFirst on a UA 764 to LAX from IAD. Can’t wait!

  11. There are those of us like you — the airplane and the flight ARE the destination. Nothing wrong with that. Despite TSA, gate lice and over-privileged “elite” flyers, I still get a rush walking down the jetway and stepping aboard the plane. I always have a book and my iPod but a window seat provides the best IFE for me. My little trips tend to involve food (crab cakes at BWI, BBQ at AUS, chocolates at LAS) and I find people-watching in airports to be endlessly entertaining. Great posting, Darren, and thanks.

  12. I only think you’re doing it wrong if you claim you’ve been to the place at the other end of the trip. I like flying, too, and from time to time will go flying with no particular destination in mind.

    But if I do a 3 hour turn at HNL I don’t claim I’ve been to Hawaii.

  13. I am sort of in between on this one. I understand enjoying the flight but I live in Thailand and cannot believe someone would not just take at least a couple of days to experience the culture, the food, thats pretty insane. The fact that you say its brilliant just makes no sense. You know whats brilliant, experiencing new cultures and opening up your mind. I have never met a person who said sitting in First Class for 25 + hours is a better experience.. just a little strange.

    • @Jumus: I absolutely agree (and mentioned in this post) about the incredible experience it is to experience new cultures, food and more. But sometimes… if it’s just a flight and airline experience I’m looking for, it’s an equally rewarding experience (for me), regardless of the airport I land at.

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